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Left In Lowell

Left In Lowell

Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs

 
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March 30, 2009

Are You Prepared To Give Away the Store?

by at 9:33 am.

Word on the street is that Mr. Meehan may well get pretty much what he wants with regards to the Tsongas Arena (which is, in no particular order, having it handed it over to UML for “free,” as well as the land next door which will be developed “for appropriate use” whatever the f— that means), because he is backed by none other than the paper of (ill) repute (the Sun) and by Panagiotakos. As well as some probable majority of city councilors, who apparently put personal loyalty above what’s best for the taxpayers who elected them.

We the city will be stuck with the debt from the past deficits and whatnot, while the University will be stuck with deficits going forward. This of course is the worst of all worlds. The University currently has a sweetheart deal in using the Arena (screwing the city out of possible use and profit), while the city picks up all the operating deficit, so this handover is as bad for UML as it is for the city. Meehan is an idiot and a fool, as are the city councilors who want to give Meehan what he wants so badly. And you can bet Meehan will be jumping the UML ship within a couple years, leaving the University straddled with his poor planning and much-severed ties to the community (he having disproportionately cut every aspect of community-driven programs in his truncated budget). Fabulous. Thanks, Marty, you’re a pal.

So anyway (rant aside), sometime in the next couple weeks, or the next month, we’ll probably see a deal “reached” with UML in regards to the Arena. I think Bernie Lynch has his hands essentially tied from all sides, since his bosses seem hell-bent on screwing the taxpayer.

It is, in effect, an outrage. So…what are you going to do about it, readers?

It’s election season, after all, though it doesn’t yet feel like it. It’s been pretty mum out there, hasn’t it? Maybe we ought to start acting like there’s something at stake.

I have an idea. First, call or email or write each and every one of the Councilors (calling or snail-mail is best, as you know) to tell them you want the city to get a better deal than to be left high and dry with the Tsongas’ debt and nothing to show for it, and that your vote for them in the fall could count on it. Be polite, but very firm. I even did the work of white-paging the phone numbers of many of the city councilors for you. You know what to do.

Mayor Edward C. Caulfield: (978) 453-7572, 589 Princeton Blvd, Lowell MA 01851
Kevin P. Broderick: (no number on whitepages.com), 175 Fairmount St, Lowell, MA 01852
Rodney M. Elliot: (no number on whitepages.com), 15 Cresta Dr, Lowell MA 01854
Alan W. Kazanjian: (978) 459-3899, 129 Westview Rd, Lowell MA 01851
Michael J. Lenzi: (978) 452-6832, 92 Holyrood Ave, Lowell MA 01852
William F. Martin: (978) 441-2203, 173 Clark Road, Lowell MA 01852
Armand P. Mercier: (978) 454-4775, 187 Mammoth Rd, Lowell MA 01854
Rita M. Mercier: (978) 453-2467, 221 Burnham Rd, Lowell MA 01852
James L. Milinazzo: (978) 459-9408, 12 Carriage Dr, Lowell MA 01852

If anyone has the numbers for Councilors Elliot or Broderick please submit them in comments.

Once you have called the city councilors (and if you have limited time, concentrate on Elliot, the Merciers, Caulfield, Kazanjian, and Lenzi as they are the ones likely to vote for this fiasco), and you still have room left for outrage, then I would suggest calling/writing the University of Massachusetts Office of the President, at 617-287-7050 (address: 225 Franklin Street, 33rd Floor, Boston, MA 02110), to politely ask them to seriously evaluate any deal on the Arena from the perspective of the best interest of UML, because I think taking on this deficit-ridden Arena is a horrible idea for them, especially right in the midst of declining budgets. If the focus of our public universities ought to be education, then taking on the Arena will mean reductions somewhere else, perhaps even in the teaching staff. The Arena will not be profitable any time soon.

Then you might want to call the staff of the Commissioner of the Board Higher Education, Dr. Richard Freeland, to let them know the same information. That number is (617) 994-6950, or you can email them through their website.

I’m serious about this. It’s time we took some action. Hop to!!

March 27, 2009

Audio: TOL Interview with UML Professor Bob Forrant

by at 11:18 am.

In case you missed my interview on WUML this morning with Bob Forrant about his new book, you can listen or download it here. Thanks to Bob for coming in and giving an interesting overview of the economic history of the rise and fall of industrialization in the Connecticut River Valley!

Sorry if the audio is an issue at any point, I did my best to fix the levels.

Bob Forrant on Thinking Out Loud for Friday, 3/25/09

by at 6:59 am.

[Bumped - tune in this morning at 10am!]

This Friday on Thinking Out Loud we’ll be interviewing UML professor Bob Forrant on his new book, Metal Fatigue: American Bosch and the Demise of Metalworking in the Connecticut River Valley. It’s a look into the loss of many good metalworking jobs in that region, and how that still affects the economies of the area to this very day, including the still-hard-hit Springfield, MA. We’ll be talking about the issues his book raises, and how they are relevant to our current economic situation.

Tune in at 10am this Friday to WUML, 91.5FM, or you can stream it live.

March 25, 2009

City Council Meeting 3.24.09

by at 11:11 am.

A few quick hits on last night’s City Council Meeting:

City Manager’s Portion
Vote: Accept Proposal Coffman Realty Inc.

The City Council voted 8-1 to sell this property to a developer that wants to build a Wallgreen. This is not the end of it. The City wanted the money about $350,000 and that is why the great majority of the City Council voted for it; whether the store gets built or not, will depend upon approval both by regulatory bodies and how much noise the neighbors can make. I do feel bad for the neighbors in Middlesex Village, the traffic in that area is horrendous; just terrible. Mayor B. Caulfield was the lone dissenter and in a show of respect to him, the other City Councilors allowed this issue to be discussed in a public hearing. So the neighbors came out and spoke. One the concerns they had was that construction would disturb the water level more than it already as been. I think they will get a more sympathetic hear in front of the Planning Board. Stay tuned!

Motions:

Req. Mgr. investigate amnesty to eliminate fees & fines on Excise. We all work hard and pay our taxes, fees and in my case lots of parking tickets, on time. There is no way, I favor an amnesty program. If there is an individual that is struggling, I am willing to help them out but to put into place a blanket amnesty program, I am not in favor. If the City does not receive the income it projects in a timely manner, we all suffer. The rest of us who follow the rules will have to subsidize those who do not want to pay on time.

Req. Council initiate action for Charter Change as it relates to number of candidates required for Primary Elections
Lynne had posted on this particular motion. I am not in favor of making it easy to eliminate Primary Elections. As it is incumbents have a distinct advantage over the challengers, why make it more difficult for people to get involved in the process. Kudos to CC B. Martin who mentioned that perhaps the cut off date for officially entering the City Council or School Committee race should be moved up.

I was happy that he mentioned that challengers would be more willing to enter a race if they knew that a spot is open. Right now, if you are an incumbent and you wish to handicap the race, you do not have to say anything until the deadline date. At that point, you can announce that you are not running. Meanwhile, your political allies are aware of your true intentions and those who are not in your circles, well they are literally left out. Let’s see if the City Council does anything with moving the date. August 11th is the last day to submit nominations papers; you have until August 27th to withdraw.

The City Manager had provided the City Council with the PA Sports Audited Report on the Tsongas Arena. The Arena Ad-Hoc Sub-Committee will hold a meeting to discuss its findings. It is a very interesting report, I will post on that later. (We should keep the Arena!)

Also, the City has come to an agreement with Comcast. The Cable TV Sub-Committee will review the terms of the new cable contract. And I will also post my thought on that later.

March 24, 2009

Wrong, Do’it Again!

by at 2:56 pm.

It doesn’t get more coherent than this post by Dick Howe. The title alone speak volumes, “The Sun’s Classless Apology.” Another priceless quote: “There’s a certain nobility in acknowledging one’s mistakes because when you admit your errors you’re less likely to repeat them. The best evidence of the Sun’s insincerity is that the paper’s purported apology repeats the same mistake that prompted the ‘apology’ in the first place.”

“If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?” - Pink Floyd

To Primary or Not to Primary?

by at 12:15 pm.

Tonight’s City Council agenda doesn’t really have too much controversy, to be honest, which I guess is a good thing. A famous Chinese curse is “may you live in interesting times” and if things aren’t all that interesting, they’re probably going pretty well, or at least as well as they can.

However, there is one motion by a city councilor to point out:

20. C. Kazanjian-Req. Council initiate action for Charter Change as it relates to number of candidates required for Primary Elections.

Those who listened to WCAP yesterday afternoon (I was not one of them, so this is hearsay) heard Councilor Kazanjian taking about his motion. His expressed point of view isn’t unfamiliar to observers of past city council elections: it costs too much to have a primary when you’re only just above the 18+1 needed to trigger a primary election.

Now, a primary does a couple of things. It pares down the candidates for the general election down to 18, and it also rearranges the names on the list - otherwise, the general election ballot shows the incumbents seeking reelection first, then all the challengers.

There are arguments that this severely disadvantages challengers, since the incumbents’ names are not only familiar to voters from their incumbency, but also end up first on the list of candidates. However, a primary plus general election is costly (and I don’t refer to the taxpayers, but to the candidates), and some say that is the bigger disadvantage for challengers. (Though I would make the argument that it gives the opportunity for the challenger to hone their campaign, and get out in front earlier than they might otherwise, as challengers certainly do not get the attention incumbents can get by virtue of being front of the cameras every (other) week and in the papers. A challenger that places well in the primary suddenly has credibility as a viable candidate and that can attract money and supporters and volunteers.)

Mass.gov explains the process for changing city charters thusly (bold mine):

Under the Home Rule Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution (Amendment Article 89) and the Home Rule Procedures Act (MGL Ch. 43B), cities and towns can form a charter commission to adopt a new charter; entirely revise an existing charter, or amend selected charter provisions.  As an option to the Home Rule Charter process under Ch. 43B, communities can also adopt, revise or amend a charter by a special act of the State Legislature with approval by the Governor (See Special Acts ).

Charter Commissions are created in these circumstances (bold mine):

Chapter 43B: Section 4. Order of governing body for submission of question of adoption or revision of charter; nomination and election of charter commission

Section 4. Within thirty days of receipt of certification by the board of registrars of voters that a petition contains sufficient valid signatures, the city council or board of selectmen shall by order provide for submitting the question of adopting or revising a charter to the voters of the city or town, and for the election of a charter commission, at the first regular city election, or at the first annual or biennial town meeting for the election of town officers, held on or after the sixtieth day following the adoption of the order. Said order shall also provide for the nomination of charter commission members, who shall be nominated in accordance with this chapter. Said order shall not require the concurrence of the mayor in a city and shall not be subject to referendum. If an order of the city council or board of selectmen under this section has not been adopted within the thirty days specified above, the question of adopting or revising a charter shall be submitted to the voters and charter commission members shall be elected at the first regular city election, or at the first annual or biennial town meeting for the election of town officers, held on or after the ninetieth day after receipt by the city council or board of selectmen of certification provided for in the first sentence of this section.

Of the two routes (Charter Commission, or special act of the legislature) which do you think Mr. Kazanjian would want to go?

The fact is, that it appears from the wording the motion that the Councilor is looking to push the number up from 18+1 to something higher, so that a primary isn’t triggered just to “knock off one person.” However, if we go this route, and make the threshold say, 20+1, what happens when we have 21 candidates, and once again are facing paying for a primary just to knock off one person? Any cutoff is, ultimately, arbitrary.

For my part, I’m not looking at the cost of running an election in order to judge whether a primary should be held. Democracy is one of our most sacred trusts with one another and is worth every penny to serve the public good. And the money to run an election is a drop in the bucket of the city’s budget. How I would judge such a change in our charter is, does it serve democracy? In this case it’s not completely clear, since there are advantages and disadvantages to challengers either way, though I lean towards any process that loosens incumbents’ chokehold on government. And, I would rather err on the side of elections, rather than saving pennies. For want of a nail…as the proverb goes.

Besides, this is being proposed by the same guy who thought culling our democracy in the form of cutting out half our city council meetings in a year was a good idea. [Clarification - what I meant was that he was in favor of this proposal, which of course was put forward by C. Lenzi. -Lynne]

Edit: Referring to my notes, I should add that there is currently a process to forgo a primary if its triggered by the 18+1 rule - a special overrule by the legislature and signed by the Governor, very probably the same process under which a charter change can be effected by the legislature. However, as someone I talked about this mentioned, this “Charter change” route is likely a response to the last-minute overrule the legislature was asked to do last time ’round, which, I have been told, made a certain senior member of our state delegation a bit disgruntled. Still, I do not think this is a good enough excuse for a change in our charter that does not go through the voters.

Decreased Need for Power Puts Billerica Plant on Hold

by at 10:02 am.

In a rather sudden turn of events, we hear that the plans for a Billerica power plant are on hold due to decreased demands for power in the New England area. From Billericapowerplant.com, an opposition group:

In an interesting turn of events last week relating to the Billerica power plant proposal, the plant developer ran an ad in the Lowell Sun proclaiming victory with the EFSB decision to site the plant.  And on the next day, also in the Sun, Joe Fitzpatrick, CEO of DG Clean Power, admitted that the plant would likely be delayed for some time due to decreasing demand for power overall and specifically for plants like this one.  Click here [PDF] to see the ad that ran in the SunClick here to read the article in the Sun.  A second article in the Tewksbury Town Crier quotes ISO-NE’s spokesperson stating that there was far  more capacity than demand in the recent ISO-NE auction.  There is also commentary from the other partner in DG Clean Power, Ed Liston.  Click here to read the Crier article.

Now, obviously the economic downturn has a lot to do with the decreased demand, but so do efforts to conserve, and as the national and state initiatives ramp up to push conservation (and there is a lot of low-hanging fruit) and increase the use of renewables like wind and solar, demand will only decrease further. It was always bunk that “we’ll continue to need more power” in the short run - the line that the plant’s proponents liked to push. “It’ll take time for renewables to reduce the demand for carbon-based power” said they. Well, they are wrong, and it doesn’t take a genius to see that we can easily, if we put our minds to accomplishing it, start reducing demand for CO2-based energy, deliberately and systematically. And will be, because the alternative is to let the planet warm even more than it has and will.

March 22, 2009

On WCAP Tomorrow

by at 7:02 pm.

Well, better late than never to promote tomorrow’s WCAP appearance for the blogging segment. I’ll be opposite RichardHowe.com’s Tony Accardi, around 7:15 am through the top of the hour.

That’s 980AM with Teddy Panos tomorrow morning!

March 21, 2009

Mr. O’Neill: Stop the Madness!

by at 7:52 am.

Enough is enough! We all know that the editor of the Sun has a agenda and uses the thin veil of journalism to reward the sycophants and punish the rest. But the paper’s focus on the Lowell schools system borders on obsession. So I was not surprised by an editorial that appeared in yesterday’s paper. Athough the editorials for March 19th and 21st are available on their web site; the one for the 20th is not. Someone was kind enough to send me their e-edition.

This particular editorial is just another selective beating up of certain elements of the Lowell schools. But I was surprised how sloppy it was. You would think that someone would have checked the facts before they went to press but when your motivation is spite, you rush to judgment.

The Sun editorial reads in part:

And, thanks to [Paul] Georges [President of the United Teachers of Lowell] — and the School Department’s inept record-keeping
and/or lack of interest — teachers can take Mondays and Fridays off routinely without being disciplined. If they are reprimanded, who knows? The
School Department takes care of its own — no dirty laundry unless the local newspaper finds out. But here’s the rub. On Thursday, Dec. 18, 11 teachers at Greenhalge School called in sick. The school has 24 classrooms. Do you think the kids’ educations were served while the teachers were on the lam? Did the principal discipline anyone? Is the Greenhalge School on the state’s underperforming list?

On the lam? Well guess what? LiL has been told that only two teachers called in sick that day; the rest each donated a day’s sick leave to a colleague who is seriously ill and had used up all of their own sick time. The facts are getting in the way of the editor’s campaign so let’s skew the facts.

The editor of the Sun wants to be top dog in this city and he has a publisher whose motivation is the bottom line. We all blame him but the Sun Publisher and President is equally culpable. By the way, if the Sun really cared about Lowell public school children, they would not have been on the band wagon to drive Dr. Karla Brooks- Baehr out of town. Oh yeah, I forgot she did not socialize enough, so go she must.

Somehow I do not think Friday’s editorial is going to be an award winner.

March 20, 2009

We Can Agree - United Against Casinos

by at 10:37 am.

“What could James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and the League of Women Voters possibly have in common?” writes Frederick Clarkson at ReligionDispatches. And maybe politics makes strange bedfellows - or maybe, it’s that groups that can get quite heated in the debates about social policy and taxes can occasionally bridge that gap to work on an issue the crosses those boundaries.

The article highlights that coalition in Mass and has many other good tidbits - all important to remember as it appears that casinos and slots in some form will at least be proposed in the legislature once again, putting that coalition to the test a second time.

A lot of you probably remember from past casino posts why I’ve come out vehemently against casinos - so probably repeating them will bore you. But this article goes into stark details and I encourage you to read it. Some highlights:

“Predatory gambling,” Bernal says, “is the practice of using gambling to prey on human weaknesses for profit.” He points to the highly addictive nature of contemporary electronic slot machines and video poker as the primary source of the profound “social costs” related to gambling addition. “Slots are,” he says, “designed to make you play as fast as possible for as long as possible,” and in gambling industry parlance, “to play to extinction.”
[…]
The addictive nature of the electronic slots and their role as the main revenue stream of the gambling industry is not widely understood. Industry data show that 70-80% of the revenue of casinos come from these machines, and investors are not very interested in casinos without slots.
[…]
In a powerful video recently posted by Casino Free Mass in anticipation of the next round of debate over introducing casinos in the state, a prominent medical researcher compares a multicolored brain scan of a cocaine addict about to receive a fix and that of someone sitting at a slot machine. The same sections of each brain light up in ways that are indistinguishable.

“I think it’s cowardly,” said Laura Everett. ”We are going to sacrifice our citizens. We know that there are people in Massachusetts who will become addicted. What Patrick is saying is ‘you are expendable.’”

There are so many reasons to reject state-sponsored addiction (and yes, I have my issues with the lottery and other such state-as-pushers revenue), but the best reason is that, once you place a casino somewhere, you will develop addicts that otherwise would not have become addicted. There are practical questions, yes, such as how much these unfortunate souls would cost the state because of increased need for law enforcement, courts, and treatment - and how much net gain of revenue you would have from the casino with this in mind - but the true argument against casinos and slots (of any kind) is moral. A question of what, as the article states, “do we want our government to do”?

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